NURBURGRING – A BRIEF HISTORY
The original 27-mile long Nurburgring racetrack was completed in 1927 and immediately became famous (some might say infamous) around the world. Over time various changes were made to the circuit but it always remained challenging and very long. However, as the decades past, safety became more and more of an issue for riders and drivers. The lack of run-off areas and bumpy, uneven corners were just two concerns that were raised. Jackie Stewart is famed for calling the circuit “The Green Hell”, a reference to its scenic location and dangerous and demanding nature. Growing concerns finally reached their peak after Niki Lauda’s horrific crash in 1976 when he was severely burned during a Formula 1 race. This resulted in the end of Formula 1 races at the old circuit, but the German motorcycle Grand Prix continued to be held there until 1980, when that too was finally withdrawn for safety reasons. Changes needed to be made.
A completely new 3.2-mile long racetrack was constructed, and eventually opened in 1984. This new circuit marked the return of Grand Prix racing to the Nurburgring.
The 13-mile long Nurburgring-Nordschleife (North Loop) was formed when the old track was split up. The Nordschleife still occasionally hosts competitive motor sport, such as touring car racing, but top-level events are now reserved for the new circuit. Vehicle manufacturers, including BMW and Porsche, hire the Nordschleife for testing. Motorcycle and car clubs can also hire the circuit. It is probably most famous for public access sessions, known as ‘Touristenfahrten’ (Tourist Driving).
If you want to experience the thrill of riding the Nordschleife yourself, there’s some essential information that will make the whole adventure more enjoyable. First of all, check the Nordschleife opening times before planning your trip. The last thing you want to do is turn up to find you’ve wasted your time and money. Opening times can be found on the Nurburgring’s own website (www.nuerburgring.de). Times can vary and on some days the circuit is completely closed, so beware.
The Nurburgring is approximately 55 miles south of Cologne (Koln) and 100 miles west of Frankfurt. The nearest large city is Koblenz (about 40 miles away). The A61, A1 and A48 autobahns all pass within 15 miles or so of the track. Alternatively you may want to take the scenic route. The Nurburgring lies in the heart of the Eifel region, well known for great scenery and fantastic biking roads.
Google Maps, or something similar, is ideal for helping with your route plan. While you’re doing that you can zoom in on the Nurburgring complex and see the layout. Although the Nurburgring is well sign posted and isn’t that difficult to find, the whole complex covers a large area. The whereabouts of the Nordschleife entrance isn’t always obvious. The location of the entrance is on the L93 road, at the following GPS co-ordinates: 50.34667 N 6.96583 E. You can type these co-ordinates into Google Maps to see exactly where it is, or load them on your own satellite navigation system, if you have one. There are several free viewing areas at the trackside. One of the more popular is at the Brunnchen bend on the B412 road, GPS location: 50.37028 N 7.00833 E. At Brunnchen there’s a large un-surfaced parking area, but few other comforts. Another interesting viewing area is at the Breidscheid bend on the B257 road, GPS location: 50.37694 N 6.95028 E. At Breidscheid there’s a bridge that takes the circuit over the B257, the viewing area is next to this bridge (you walk up a flight of stairs to reach the track). Parking is available at a cafe about 100 yards away.
If you need to top up with fuel there are several petrol stations in the local area that also sell a range of Nurburgring souvenirs.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU ARRIVE AT THE NORDSCHLEIFE
Parking is to the left-hand side of the Nordschleife main gate entrance. Refreshments are available at the Nordschleife cafe next to the parking area. Souvenirs are also available from a shop opposite the cafe. The ticket office is to the right-hand side of the main gate. You can purchase laps at anytime during opening hours (prices are shown outside the ticket office). Most staff speak very good English. At the time of writing 1 lap costs 23 Euros. There are reductions if you chose to ride more than 4 laps.
The whole area is about the size of a football pitch. This means that everything can be found easily. When you’re ready to start your lap, line up in front of the barriers next to the ticket office. There are 4 lanes, the 2 middle lanes are for motorcycles and have motorcycle symbols painted on the road surface.
Your ticket will be a plastic card (the same size as a credit card). Once you arrive at the barrier machine you place this card against a flat sensor (the sensor has an outline the same shape as your card) the barrier will then rise, and away you go. There are normally staff at the barriers in case anyone has a problem. The card is retained by you and can be loaded with extra laps at anytime.
There is a speed limit of 30 kph (19 mph) for the first 300 metres after the barriers. There is a similar speed limit on return to the start area after completion of your lap.
Once your lap is completed you will be filtered off the track and back into the start area (even if you have a multi-lap ticket). You must go through the barriers again for each lap you do, but you don’t have to start another lap immediately. If you wish, you can park your bike, relax and take on some refreshments, then start again.
Your plastic, credit card style ticket, can also be loaded with money to pay for food and drinks at the Nordschleife cafe, or any of the other attractions around the Nurburgring complex. You even get to keep the card as a souvenir!
RIDING THE CIRCUIT & SAFETY INFORMATION
The Nurburgring-Nordschleife is a demanding 13-mile long circuit. Officially the track has 73 bends. Some of these bends are ‘blind’ and some have an uneven or bumpy road surface. Enjoy the Nurburgring experience, but please ensure you and your motorcycle come away in one piece.
My advice for first-timers is to think of the circuit as a fast road ride and not a racetrack!
The Nordschleife is classed as a one-way public toll road without speed limits (except on approach to the entrance and exit). Officially vehicles must be 100% road legal and normal German road traffic law applies. Take your vehicle’s documents, Driving Licence and Passport. You probably won’t be asked to produce these documents, but it’s a legal requirement to carry them when riding in Germany, even on normal public roads.
You must wear full protective clothing (not necessarily leather). Suitable boots, gloves and jackets designed for motorcycle use will be fine (no jeans, t-shirts or trainers). Wear a crash helmet that has a visor or a crash helmet with goggles.
Your motorcycle must be road worthy and have rear view mirrors on both sides. Also make sure your tyres are in good condition and have plenty of tread left (if you’re a hard rider, and do several 13-mile long laps, you could end up with no rubber for your return journey). Slick tyres are forbidden.
Officially there’s a noise limit of 95 decibels for all vehicles. This can be measured at trackside or by officials making spot checks. Despite this rule, many people ride or drive the circuit with very loud exhaust systems. In my experience it’s highly unlikely you’ll be refused entry for this reason.
The taking of photos or videos while riding the Nurburgring-Nordschleife is now prohibited. Photos and videos can be taken from various viewing areas outside of the track boundaries.
Store the Nurburgring-Nordschleife emergency telephone number on your mobile phone before you start your lap: 0049 8000 302 112
If you see a plain yellow flag being waved by trackside officials this means ‘danger ahead, no overtaking’. Approach and pass the danger zone cautiously and at a speed appropriate to the situation (max. 50 kph / 31 mph). If you see a yellow flag with vertical red stripes being waved by trackside officials this means ‘oil or other fluids on the track, no overtaking’. Slow down and proceed with caution (max. 50 kph / 31 mph).
Never overtake a safety car when its roof mounted yellow lights are flashing. Follow at a safe distance until the lights are switched off or the safety car leaves the track.
Overtaking on the right is forbidden. Overtake on the left (indicate first to let others know your intensions). Always be aware that you may encounter much slower moving vehicles (anything from camper vans to tourist coaches use the track).
Check your mirrors for fast moving vehicles approaching from behind, if it’s faster than you, move to the right and let it past (bear in mind that some people are regular ‘ringers’, there’s always likely to be someone faster than you).
Don’t go crazy on your first few laps. It can take many laps for a good rider to learn the circuit; don’t think you’re a bad rider because other people pass you. Ride at your own pace.
Avoid the temptation to explore the limits of your machine. If riding with a pillion passenger allow an extra safety margin. Don’t put pressure on yourself by trying to impress your friends or by timing your lap.
In case of a breakdown stop your motorcycle at a safe place on the grass verge next to the track. Stand behind the safety barrier and call the emergency number for assistance. There’s a charge for removing your vehicle from the track.
In the event of an accident anyone involved, and any witnesses, must stop to offer assistance. Call the Nurburgring-Nordschleife emergency telephone number. If you’re found to be at fault in an accident, prosecutions and fines may follow. You may also be liable for any costs incurred for track repairs and track closures.
Anyone found not complying with the Nurburgring-Nordschleife rules can be banned from riding on the track.
It is unlikely your Motorcycle Insurance, European Breakdown Insurance and Personnel Travel Insurance will cover you to ride the Nurburgring Nordschleife. Hire companies are also unlikely to permit the use of their vehicles on the Nordschleife.
REMEMBER: IF YOU CHOOSE TO RIDE THE NURBURGRING-NORDSCHLEIFE, YOU DO SO AT YOUR OWN RISK.